Big Update on P-75i and Light Utility Helicopter Deal

Big Update on P-75i and Light Utility Helicopter Deal

#GlobalConflictHindi #P75iSubmarine #Ka226tDeal

The Project-75I conventional submarines’ (SSKs) procurement is in the news again. The government and the Indian Navy are focussed on getting this project running as soon as possible to counter the increasing naval threat that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy will pose in the coming decade and beyond.

In many ways, the P-75I line of submarines are very different from the P-75 Kalvari (Scorpene) class submarines that are coming out of the Mazagon Docks now.

Many, including myself, have suggested in the past of continuing the Scorpene line beyond the current six submarined. But it is important to note that more Scorpenes simply can’t make up for the well-defined role that these long leg SSKs of P-75I project would take on in the Indo-Pacific.

Both with respect to the Shishumar (HDW Type 209) class built in the late 80s and the Kalvari class, India had failed to take advantage in terms of a substantial and serious transfer of technology (TOT) not just in terms of “know-how” but also “know-why”.

Part of the reason is because of Mazagon Dock being purely a shipbuilder and focussing on manufacturing without building a credible R&D arm that can absorb know-why and in future, design and develop surface and submarine ships independently with the Directorate of Naval Design (DND), Indian Navy.

With the deal for Ka-226T utility helicopters with Russia not concluded five years after it was announced and its fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters at the end of their service life, the Army is set to approach the Defence Ministry for a waiver to take the deal forward.

“About 75% of the Army’s fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters is over 30 years old. Some of them are about 50 years old. We need urgent replacements. The Ka-226T deal with Russia has been stuck over indigenisation. So the Army is approaching the Ministry of Defence [MoD] for a waiver to conclude the deal,” a defence official said on condition of anonymity.

Operational Capability

Stating that the operational capability has already been impacted due to deficiencies and non-availability of replacement, the official stated, “The total technical life of these helicopters will start finishing from 2023 onwards. So the existing deficiencies will keep increasing.”

In 2015, India and Russia had concluded an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for at least 200 Ka-226T twin engine utility helicopters estimated to cost over $1 billion with 60 helicopters to be directly imported and remaining 140 manufactured locally. They are to replace the ageing and obsolete Cheetah and Chetak fleet of the Army and the Air Force.

A joint venture India Russia Helicopters Limited (IRHL) has been set up between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Russian Helicopters (RH) which will assemble the helicopters in India. The Request For Proposal (RFP) issued by the MoD to IRHL for 200 helicopters stated 70% localisation over which the final deal has been held up as the JV quoted localisation of 62.4% in its response.

Efforts to resolve this impasse in the last few months by adopting a revised methodology has not made any progress, it has been learnt. As the RFP states 70% indigenous content, it cannot be modified. Withdrawing it and issuing a new one would mean another 2-3 years lost. “The Army is now in a desperate situation for replacements and is preparing to take the case to the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) for a waiver to proceed with 62.4%,” the official stated.

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